Trump Allegedly Wants FBI To Look Into Locking Up Journalists Who Publish Leaks
from the because-of-course-that-would-be-his-solution dept
It’s been another busy week for our president. Following on the heels of his revelation that he fired FBI Director James Comey over the ongoing Russian ties investigation (and following on the heels of Trump’s tweeted threat about secret recordings of conversations with Comey), the FBI’s acting director said the investigation is still ongoing, a special counsel was picked to oversee the investigation, and people close to Comey hinted the FBI might have some recordings of its own that undercut the president’s narrative.
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
It’s a record, of sorts, if not an actual recording. And it’s done the way the FBI prefers to memorialize things (including testimony and “custodial interviews”) — on paper, rather than with other, less-biased recording devices. And, again, this is hearsay on top of hearsay: unnamed people claiming they read a piece of paper purporting to be a record of a conversation between Comey and the president. Grains of salt and all that, and despite what many are claiming all over the internet, really not a strong indicator of actual instruction, which could be an impeachable offense.
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.
Buried way, way down in the New York Times story is some more hearsay. This time it’s Trump allegedly suggesting something should be done about that pesky press he’s always complaining about. But, like the scenario above, it still sounds very much like something President Trump would say in a personal meeting he thought wouldn’t be turned into an office memo.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
James Comey was no fan of the press, but he did at least defend journalists (sort of) at a recent hearing. He doesn’t like seeing leaks published, but pointed out to legislators more interested in shooting the messenger that the person leaking the documents is the criminal, not the press, at least in the eyes of the DOJ.
But the DOJ is no longer the DOJ, so to speak. It’s now being run by someone who wants to turn back the clock to the mid-1980s and start the drug war all over again. It’s apparently engaged in twisting the law into a Wikileaks-prosecuting pretzel, despite Comey’s assurances about messengers not being shot. And the administration has made it clear it’s in the business of hunting down leakers, perhaps with the goal of unseating President Obama at the top of the “most whistleblowers prosecuted” list.
At this point, it’s all just secondhand (Oval) office chatter. But considering the animosity Trump has shown towards the press and free speech in general, it’s worth noting. And it always seems like every Trump denial or assertion has been followed by a leaked document to the contrary, so I’d be surprised if Comey’s memo isn’t made public within the next few days — either by being leaked to journalists or presented at the hearings Comey has been asked to attend. This administration’s contempt and hatred for the press has been undisguised. Donald Trump may be unable to change the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean he and his handpicked agency heads won’t spend the next few years making journalists’ lives miserable.